WWE and AEW Stars Primed to Take a Huge Leap Forward This Year
The past year has been one of the most unpredictable in the world of pro wrestling. Injuries, releases and the coronavirus pandemic have stalled the careers of promising Superstars, but there is still hope.
A lot of wrestlers from both WWE and All Elite Wrestling are poised to make 2021 their year, especially those who have recently returned from extended hiatuses.
In 2020, WWE Superstars such as Jey Uso and Drew McIntyre got their first taste of main event stardom while others like Bianca Belair and Dominik Mysterio made their way to the main roster.
Over in AEW, Orange Cassidy, Hikaru Shida and Darby Allin found their greatest success to date, and they were joined by newcomers such as Ricky Starks, Miro and Thunder Rosa.
So many stars could be elevated in different ways. Both companies have an abundance of talented wrestlers just waiting for their chance to shine.
Let's look at which WWE and AEW stars are set to have the best year of their career in 2021.
The New Day were separated in this year's draft after spending over six years ruling the tag team division as a trio. Big E remained on SmackDown while Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods now work on Raw.
At first, the powerhouse seemed a bit lost without his teammates but within a week or two, he had already become one of the standout performers on the blue brand.
After a slight delay, WWE finally gave him a substantial push at Christmas when he won the Intercontinental Championship from Sami Zayn in a fantastic match.
This is E's second reign with the IC title. His first in 2013 was part of his initial debut push after he had served as a bodyguard for Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee. But this reign feels more like it is designed to keep him strong until WWE is ready to put him into the world title picture.
Big E is a top star just waiting for the chance to prove it. He has charisma, unreal power and the kind of agility you expect out of someone half his size. He is more than the total package. He is one of the prototypes for the ideal WWE Superstar.
This year is going to be the one when WWE either pulls the trigger and makes him one of the top champions or doesn't. With the way things have been going, the odds are good that he will lead SmackDown by the end of 2021.
The majority of the men's roster in AEW is made up of wrestlers who barely qualify as heavyweights, so the powerhouse performers tend to stick out more than they do in WWE.
Among those giants is Lance Archer. The Murderhawk Monster is one of the tallest and most muscular stars in the company, and that makes him a threat to everyone.
Other than a couple of losses, he has physically dominated every single person he has faced in an AEW ring. With Jake Roberts as his manager, he is in a great position to rise to the top in 2021.
The only reason it feels like he didn't win a title in 2020 is that AEW had so many other stars it wanted to build up first. When a company is just getting started, it takes time to establish the new names.
Whether he finds a tag team partner or remains a lone wolf, Archer will have gold around his waist by the end of 2021. It's one of the safest bets you can make in AEW.
Carmella spent the early part of 2020 hanging out with R-Truth while trying to help him keep the 24/7 title. They made a great team and provided us with several hilarious moments.
Fast forward to the end of the year and she had returned with a new attitude, a slightly different look and a sommelier named Reginald by her side.
The Princess of Staten Island has shown marked improvements over the past couple of years, but it has been so subtle that a lot of people may not have noticed.
Her in-ring work has evolved and she has gotten more comfortable with promos. Compare the Mella from two years ago and you will see a big difference.
If WWE decides to keep her alongside Bayley, they will likely end up winning the women's tag team titles at some point. If she goes back to being a solo act, she will regain the SmackDown Women's Championship without question.
Carmella is entertaining, marketable and has a lot of history with other Superstars that WWE can use to fuel feuds. Few are heading into the new year with as much potential for success as her.
Orange Cassidy picked up the biggest win of his career at All Out 2020 in September when he defeated Chris Jericho in the first Mimosa Mayhem match in pro wrestling history.
Whether you loved or hated the gimmick bout, you can't ignore how important it was for Cassidy's career to hold a victory over somebody like Jericho.
Le Champion is one of the biggest names on the entire roster. He hasn't lost many matches in AEW so when he gets beaten, it has meaning.
Cassidy has been taking it easy lately, which is totally in line with his character, but that has more to do with AEW only having two hours of television every week than it does with Freshly Squeezed's push.
It's clear Tony Khan and the rest of AEW management sees something special in Cassidy. He might not be the world champion in 2021, but there is a good chance he gets his hands on another title this year.
When Keith Lee was in NXT, there was nobody better. He gave the best promos, had the best matches and became the first person to hold the NXT and North American Championships at the same time.
When he was called up to the main roster in August last year, he seemed destined for success. Unfortunately, WWE bungled his debut push a bit by having so many of his matches end by disqualification.
The last couple of months have been better for The Limitless One. He ended 2020 by winning the right to challenge for the WWE Championship and began 2021 by facing Drew McIntyre for the title on Raw.
He might not have won but the fact that he is starting to be used in main events is a big step in the right direction. If he continues to impress, nobody can stop him.
Lee is a unique talent in many ways but his biggest asset is his mind. He is smart and knows exactly what he brings to the table. If he keeps putting in the work, he will be rewarded for his efforts.
When Rusev was released by WWE last April, it came as a shock to some but not to those who knew how creatively frustrated he was behind the scenes.
His debut as Miro in AEW on September 9 came with a lot of fanfare, but after a couple of wins, he spent the rest of 2020 mostly sitting on the sidelines. This is all part of the plan, though.
Miro came into AEW so late in the year that there was no way he could have risen in the rankings fast enough to get the push fans were hoping for. Now that things have been reset, he can begin establishing himself as one of the most dominant forces on the roster.
Khan addressed Miro's status in a conference call with the media on December 1. According to Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc., the AEW owner has big plans for The Best Man in 2021.
With Penelope Ford and Kip Sabian by his side, Miro has all the tools he needs to succeed. He just needs the right opportunity and the right opponents.
Daddy's back and she's ready to knock somebody's head off.
After losing a Loser Leaves WWE match to Mandy Rose at SummerSlam, Sonya Deville took a few months off after police said a man attempted to kidnap her at her home in August. Phillip Thomas II has pleaded not guilty to charges including aggravated stalking with a weapon, attempted armed kidnapping and armed burglary of a dwelling.
Deville returned on the first SmackDown of 2021 in a quick backstage segment. She didn't speak or attack anyone, but her appearance garnered a lot of attention on social media.
Deville and Rose should not have been broken up, but it is going to give the former MMA fighter a chance to prove how good she is.
We don't know yet if she will be the same heel who left in August or if something will have changed. Either way, though, she is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
'Hangman' Adam Page
The saga of "Hangman" Adam Page has been quite the journey in 2020. He went from being a promising singles star to one half of the tag team champions to a man who has seemingly driven all of his friends away.
Page was kicked out of The Elite after his own actions forced The Young Bucks to give up on him, but The Dark Order have been interested in helping him find his place in recent months.
The slow burn of this storyline, combined with the occasional hints of an alcohol problem, have kept Page from becoming a full-blown heel, so there is a chance for redemption.
This year, we will either see Page go down a dark path or find the light and become the hero he was when the company first launched. Either way, 2021 will end with him either competing for or winning the world title.
The eight men and women on this list are primed to have a great year but there are even more. Who do you think will rise to the top in 2021?